World Mental Health Day is celebrated worldwide every year on October 10th, a month after observing World Suicide Prevention Day. ‘Make Mental Health & Well-Being for All a Global Priority’, the theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day, aims to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health.
This theme was chosen to address the inequalities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on people’s mental health globally. World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that during the first year of the pandemic, both anxiety and depressive disorders increased by more than 25%. The impact on mental health was particularly felt by marginalized groups and individuals due to the existing health and social inequalities, as evidenced by several studies. These findings call for urgent global action to prioritize mental health and address the inequitable social determinants. Affordable and accessible mental health services must be ensured at the community level so that no one is left behind. Similarly, countries around the world must increase investment to ensure access to mental health care for everyone and to raise awareness against the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health.
The theme is also applicable and resonates with many of the challenges that are faced within suicide prevention. According to WHO, an estimated 703,000 people in the world lose their lives to suicide every year. Behind each suicide, a substantial number of people are attempting suicide. Millions of individuals around the world are impacted by this, including suicide survivors, their families, communities, and countries. Suicide prevention must be considered and included while drafting mental health policies and strategies. As a global priority within the sustainable development goals (SDGs) target of reducing suicide deaths by one-third by 2030, urgent action is required to address this public health challenge. The WHO Mental Health Report 2022 suggests developing national suicide prevention strategies as an intervention to promote mental health and protect those at risk.
The development of suicide prevention strategies needs to complement decriminalization efforts in countries where suicide is still a criminal act, punishable by law. This is a crucial stepping stone to tackling the issues of stigma and discrimination that that can be associated with a suicide and to ensuring individuals can access appropriate mental health support services. The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) supports the decriminalisation of suicide and suicidal behaviour so as not to penalise those who attempt suicide or the families who lose someone through suicide. This is a major step toward ensuring that mental health and well-being are a global priority for everyone.
The Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030 also sets suicide prevention as an important priority and recommends actions to prevent suicide in collaboration of the health sector with other sectors simultaneously. It also urges member states to develop and implement comprehensive national suicide prevention strategies with a focus on groups and individuals at an increased risk of suicide. Overall, the plan aims for the engagement of all stakeholders to promote mental health, prevent mental disorders and suicide, and facilitate the treatment and recovery of persons with mental disorders.
Based on the evidence and policy recommendations, IASP calls upon stakeholders to engage in efforts for the prevention of suicide and the promotion of mental health and well-being. Increasing awareness, strengthening mental health care systems, reducing the treatment gap, addressing social inequalities, and increasing national-level commitment and investment in mental health are key steps towards realizing the theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day.
Our actions, no matter how big or small, can make a difference.